Saturday, January 26, 2013

Columbus Medical Mission Teams to Go to Nicaragua and Africa in February

By Shelly Burke, Editor

The Columbus Medical Mission Team took their first trip to Nicaragua in February of 2010. The team has grown significantly since then, with some members going on one trip and many going on several or all of the trips.

This year there will be two teams, with one returning to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, February 7th-17th, for their fourth trip. The other team will be traveling to the district hospital in Naivasha, Kenya, Africa, February 8th-23rd.

According to Carolyn Athey, who is looking forward to her fourth trip to Nicaragua, there will be some changes in that trip this year. Previously the team has worked with surgeons from California; this year they’ll be working with four Nicaraguan doctors. Carolyn says, “From what we know at this point, they are ENT (ear, nose, and throat) plastic and general surgeons. We are excited for the challenges that will come on this trip. We don’t know a lot of details yet but know that we can adapt to whatever comes our way!”

According to the Columbus Medical Mission Team blog (, “We have two new members, Cole Fullner and Catherine Johnston, and they will be joining Karl and Sue Tillinghast, Tamra Boettcher and Dean and Carolyn Athey. This will be the 4th trip to Nicaragua for the Tillinghast's and Athey's and Tamra's second trip.

Tamra will be taking on a dual role this time. Her desire was to lead the children's ministry and she will do that with the help of Cole and Catherine. She will also use her medical skills {as a nurse practitioner} when necessary but felt her calling for this trip was to participate more fully in the spiritual side of the mission trip. She has a lot of experience with the youth through her participation in her church and the people of Puerto Cabezas will certainly benefit spiritually and medically from her expertise.”

Last year several hundred people were seen in the clinic while the team was in Nicaragua, and did 87 surgeries. During their time there the team heard about an orphanage in which children lived in desperate circumstances, sometimes only receiving a cup of powdered milk and slice of bread to eat during a day. With donated money the team was able to purchase hundreds of pounds of rice and beans, meat, 30 dozen eggs, fruits and vegetables, oil, flour, sugar and other staples for the orphanage.

The team has already purchased the medical supplies they’ll need for this trip, but if you’d like to donate money it will be used to purchase supplies and equipment for the hospital, orphanage, or wherever the team sees the need while they’re in Nicaragua. Donations for the Nicaragua trip can be sent to: Dean and Carolyn Athey, 3471 E. 14th Ave., Columbus, NE 68601.

Dr. Nila Novotny, a member of the Columbus Medical Mission Team since the first trip, had been thinking about going on a mission trip to Africa since she’d met several other surgeons who had gone there.

The team originally planned to go to DR Congo, but the political situation was too unstable to do so safely, so the team will be going to Kenya.

Dr. Novotny and her husband John, Kevin Harm, APRN (a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner), Wendy Kahloff, an RN in Labor and Delivery at the Columbus hospital, Molly Dreeson O’Tool, RN, BSN, Erin Scoggins, RN, BSN, and Megan Kresha, paramedic, make up the team from Columbus. They will be joining a group of seven other physicians, nurses, and ancillary personnel from the Fremont/Omaha area and working with the group Friends of Naivasha at a new women’s hospital that was built with donations from Nebraska hospitals. The team will be working within their specialties and Dr. Novotny will be working with a local otolaryngologist (a doctor who works with problems and diseases of the ear, nose, and throat).

Other team members will be working with a stove project designed to build stoves to contain the fires in homes, decrease smoke inhalation, decrease burn injuries and decrease time spent gathering wood. It also helps protect the environment as it uses much less wood and with less time gathering wood and tending a fire the children can attend school and parents can be more productive with their time. (Go to to learn more.)

The Kenya team has the supplies they need for the trip (14 totes full!) but they’re still seeking money to help with the expenses of the trip. If you would like to donate, send your check to: Columbus Medical Mission Team, c/o Federated Church, 2704 15th St., Columbus, NE 68601.

Please keep these teams in your prayers as they prepare for and go on their trips! They are so thankful for the support they’ve received at various fund-raisers! As electricity and time allow they will be posting at before, during, and after the trips. Follow-up articles will appear in future issues of the Nebraska Family Times. 


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